The Shadow Year- She Reads May Book Club Selection

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The Shadow Year

by Hannah Richell

published by Orion Publishing

2013

I love when She Reads picks a book that I might not have reached for myself, and The Shadow Year is just such a book.  It is the story of two narrators in two separate times, drawn together by a beautiful lake and a charming cottage.  In 1980, five friends decide to take a year off and drop out of civilization together in a small cottage by a lake.  30 years later, Lila is recovering from a debating miscarriage when she receives a letter from a solicitor informing her that she has been left a key to a small cottage.  Lila tries to heal herself and the cottage, spending weeks away from her suffering husband while she renovates.

I am usually a fan of the dual narrative, and it works well here.  I thought this book was very well written and the story captivating.  These are the pro of the book.  Unfortunately, the downside was one I just couldn’t get past.  In the part of the book that takes place in the 1980’s, there are five characters.  Kat is the narrator, and she is sharing the cottage with her four friends.  Put simply, I despised Kat.  She was an awful person.  The only other character in this part of the book that we get to know at all is Simon, and he is pretty awful too.  The other characters are not fleshed out much, therefore there wasn’t someone to balance out these two. It reminded me a little of the end of The Dinner,  with all those awful people.  I did love the part with Lila.  I enjoyed rooting for her to get past her pain, and slowly fall in love with the beautiful cottage and lake as she slowly renovates it.  I wish I could go and relax by that beautiful lake!

Head over to She Reads and check out other reviews of this book!

 

 

Summary

On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her friends, it offers an escape; a chance to drop out for a while, with lazy summer days by the lake and intimate winter evenings around the fire. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.

Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? Why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry- She Reads April Selection

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

by Gabrielle Zevin

published Algonquin Books

by April 2014

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

My Review

A.J. Fikry is a major bookworm and a major grump.  He is the owner of the independ bookstore, Island Books, on the fictional Alice Island, and he is extremely unhappy.  He is grieving for his dead wife, Nic, and struggling to keep the floundering bookstore going.  One day, he discovers someone has left a baby in his store, with a note asking him to take care of her.  The change in A.J.’s life is truly amazing.

This is a wonderful novel from the author.  I love stories about books, book lovers, and bookstores, and this encompasses all three.  As snarky and obnoxious as A.J. is, the reader really comes to love him.  I want to go into Island Books, and shop around!

She Reads truly picked a winner in their April Book Club selection.  Head over there to read more reviews of this wonderful book.

http://www.shereads.org/april-book-club-selection-5/

Some great quotes:

“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favorite book?”

“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agreed to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”

“Remember, Maya: the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.”

“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”

 

“I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be—basically gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful. I do not like genre mash-ups a la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children’s books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and — I imagine this goes without saying — vampires.”

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress- She Reads Book Club Selection

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The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress

by Ariel Lawhon

published by Doubleday

2014

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Summary

A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater’s infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there’s a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge’s wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge’s bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

From the author Ariel Lawhon, a co-founder of She Reads, comes this wonderful tale based on the true story of the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in the 1930s.  Once called “the missingest man in NY”, Judge Crate disappeared into a cab one night and seemingly vanished into thin air.  The author takes us into a world of speakeasies and jazz clubs to imagine what really happened to the judge through the eyes of the women who knew hime best- his socialite wife Stella, his showgirl mistress Ritzi, and his maid Maria.  The story moves along nicely as we get to know these women and the kind of man the “honorable” judge was.  Then about 3/4 of the way through-BAM!  Awesome twist that makes you turn the pages even faster.  I love books set in this era, especially those set in NY.  What makes this even better is that it is based on a true story, which always makes me want to look up all the facts that I can on it.  The author does a terrific job of weaving in what might have happened to the judge, while creating very vivid female character to tell her story through.  Wonderfully written and evoking a spellbinding time in our history, I would definitely recommend this book.

Go over to She Reads to see more reviews of this book.

To learn more about the disappearance of Judge Crater-

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/joseph-force-crater-becomes-the-missingest-man-in-new-york

http://www.prairieghosts.com/crater.html

About the Author

Ariel Lawhon is the co-founder of the popular online book club She Reads (www.shereads.org). A novelist, blogger, and life-long reader, she lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart. Her next novel, THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, will release from Doubleday in February of 2014.

Currently reading- The Perfume Collector-the She Reads Book Club August selection

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the perfume collector

An inheritance from a mysterious stranger . . .
An abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank of Paris . . .
And three exquisite perfumes that hold a memory . . . and a secret

London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London’s most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn’t come easily to her—and perhaps never will.

Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There’s only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d’Orsey.

So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d’Orsey’s story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London.

But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva’s past and Grace’s future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.

Illuminating the lives and challenging times of two fascinating women,The Perfume Collector weaves a haunting, imaginative, and beautifully written tale filled with passion and possibility, heartbreak and hope.

(from Goodreads)

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16248311-the-perfume-collector

 

I am in the middle of this book and I am LOVING it!  Cannot wait to get back to it.  So glad She Reads Book Club chose this for the August selection!

http://www.shereads.org/2013/08/august-book-club-selection-3/

 

We are heading out for a mini vacation to Lake Placid, so I am hoping to get some reading in.  Five hours in the car= plenty of reading time!!

I will be packing light, so I plan to load darling daughter’s kindle up with a few good ones.   I will have The Savage Garden and In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods.  

In between bike riding, kayaking, and general fun having, I got some good reads to look forward to!

What are your weekend plans?